Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pssst: I hear Ghosts

I went to bed listening to Sun Kil Moon and when I got up this morning, still lost in a bizarre dream, it was Muhammad Ali's birthday. Seems like the perfect time to have a conversation about Mark Kozelek.

You may be familiar with the San Francisco songwriter from his work with the Red House Painters. Or maybe, like me, you didn't know of him until you stumbled upon his reincarnation with Sun Kil Moon and the classic 2003 release Ghosts of the Great Highway. Or perhaps you're receiving your first nudge today. Yes, it's PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) No. 16.

After referencing Cassius Clay at the top, the song "Glenn Tipton" has nothing to do with Muhammad Ali. Nothing, and perhaps everything. Koselek has an obsession for boxing, or at the very least he is a keen ringside observer. Another song from the album, "Duk Koo Kim," is a haunting epic about the South Korean who died following a bout with Ray Mancini.

"Ghosts of the Great Highway" is far superior to just about anything that has been hyped through the myopic music mill in the past seven years, and will set you on a journey to discover Koselek's other work. It is a stunning collection of expertly crafted songs and spectacular guitar work, including some intricate alternate tunings I still haven't figured out. Although a few songs may stand out -- "Carry Me Ohio" is flat-out amazing -- it is a start-to-finish album, and there's no hurry to hit the finish line.

Cassius Clay was hated
More than Sonny Liston
Some like K.K. Downing
More than Glenn Tipton
Some like Jim Nabors
Some Bobby Vinton
I like 'em all

I put my feet up
On the coffee table
I stay up late watching cable
I like old movies with Clark Gable
Just like my dad does

Just like my dad did
When he was home
Staying up late,
Staying up alone
Just like my dad did
When he was thinking
Oh, how fast the years fly

I know an old woman
Ran a donut shop
She worked late serving cops
Then one morning
Babe, her heart stopped
Place ain't the same no more

Place ain't the same no more
Not without my friend, Eleanor
Place ain't the same no more
Man, how things change

I buried my first victim
When i was nineteen
Went through her bedroom
And the pockets of her jeans
And found her letters
That said so many things
That really hurt me bad

I never breathed
Her name again
But I like to dream
About what could have been
I never heard her calls again

But I like to dream

If you like to dream put this album in the player and close your eyes. It will take you places.

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